Sortition to Fix America’s Broken System

A recent blog posting…

http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2010/01/29/taking-back-our-government-jury-duty-for-all/

…advocates sortition to select all American federal elective offices–the President, the Vice President, the Senate, and the House. The proposal is a (quite understandable) reaction to the Supreme Court’s recent radical decision to lift all restraints on corporate “free speech” (thereby constraining the free speech rights of everyone else).

The proposal has generated a lot of comments, which is a good thing. I mostly have quibbles about the proposal. For example, I wouldn’t rely upon income tax records for fear that those at the bottom might be underrepresented. Why not rely on voter registration, combined with a much more aggressive effort at achieving universal registration? Also, the proposal calls for curtailing lobbyists from outside the area a representative or senator represents. I suspect such proposal would be ineffective, and that other measures (for example, the restoration of a robust and vibrant media) would be needed here. Finally, I’m not very keen on selecting the President and the Veep this way. In the past, sortition has almost always been used to fill collective bodies. Obviously, this helps to guard against the variances in quality that random selection can induce. Pick one name at random, and you may get an idiot, a nut, or a teabagger (but I repeat myself). Pick 12 names, and you might get 1 or 2 cranks. Pick 435 names (i.e., fill the U.S. House by lot), and the odds of getting a large number of nutters is infinitesimally small (unless a majority of the citizenry are nutters, in which case you have bigger problems on your hands).